Lesson from 20 years ago – D.C. and cryptospordiosis

20 years ago this month (Dec 1993), the then Acting Regional Administration of the Environmental Agency Region 2, Stanley Laskowski, who currently teaches at University of Pennsylvania, Department of Earth and Environmental Science recalls the situation and how scary it was. “the contaminations, (cryptosporidium) as well as levels of wastes from humans and animals are a result of a malfunction in the Delecarlia Plant that serves all of the D.C. area as well as parts of Maryland and Virginia.”

With the Clinton Administration just starting, an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis may trigger public outcry; thus EPA acted quickly. The EPA send out a public advisory to 800,000 residents in the region to boil their drinking water or use alternative sources such as bottle water.  EPA’s perspective was to act first and be on the precaution side. They could have waited for test results to confirm the level of contamination, but Stan pointed out that Milwaukee and New York City (also in 1993) also had the same situation and waited too long to act.

As Stan’s student, I believe Stan’s action was the correct call and from the class I have learned that it is always better to side on being more cautious. The risk out weights the benefits in this case. Milwaukee had eight cases of the disease and with the population density in D.C., more cases would have surly be recorded had the level of contamination really exceeded the safety level.


About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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